Skills and Metaskills

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“Metaskills are abstract skills which have to do with other skills. For example, an autodidact is a person who has the metaskill of being able to self-teach him or herself new skills without an outside teacher. A teacher is a person who has the metatalent to teach skills to others; here I speak of someone who is a teacher of a wide variety of things, not necessarily a teacher who focuses on one single topic. Teaching one single topic, like calculus, is a skill, but the ability to learn an arbitrary skill and then teach it to others, that is a meta-skill. Generalization is a metaskill where you look at a wide variety of skills and figure out the common underlying patterns. Specialization is one where you can take a skill and focus it more precisely, to get a new skill which is a special case of the broader original skill.

Training a metaskill is the same. Just because a skill is meta, doesn’t make it any different from any other skill. The difference is that we don’t usually consciously train our meta-skills because most people don’t even recognize them as skills. Besides that, training a meta-talent is more difficult than training a skill, because you can’t as easily fall into a pattern of repetition. Whereas you can do basketball training by throwing a basketball through a hoop a whole lot of times, you can’t, for example, teach yourself calculus a whole lot of times. In order to train the meta ability of being an autodidact, you must consciously seek out new things to teach yourself. If mastering chess requires playing ten thousand games, then mastering autodidacticism requires teaching yourself ten thousand different skills.”

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